Avoid Performance Review Nightmares

November 18, 2009

Old economy performance evaluations focus equally on areas of achievement and areas for improvement. This is daft because every bit of research on employee performance continually reports that up to 50% of staff feel disengaged at work. If we want an economic turn around it begins one manager to one employee at a time.

Gallop researchers and best selling authors Doug Clifton and Tom Raith prove over and over that companies who outperform their competition have staff who answer YES to the question “Do you use your best skills every day?” Let’s be clear, the organization with the best talent does not win. The organization that maximizes and listens to that talent does. ( )

I’m not saying avoid discussing areas of weakness in a performance evaluation, but I am saying to contextualize those weaknesses. If you have a peak performing sales rep that sucks at paperwork you have to ask yourself what matters: sales or administrivia? Hire them an assistant a day a week and streamline the paperwork so they can do more of what they do best. Sales people love to sell, let them.

Most employees feel invisible to management because management is under the crazy illusion that they are the only ones who can solve the problems before them. You hire smart people and then you close the door, work longer hours, isolate yourselves in retreats and try to solve problems without the people closest to the solution. (Industrial Psychologist Tom Taveres, PhD wrote  The Mind Field to stop this craziness.)

A performance appraisal is the time to value your talent. This means mirroring back their success stories “I really value how you did a, b and c on that project.” The pace of doing this over and over might drive you crazy with impatience, but you have to reflect back the achievements so your people feel heard, seen, and valued. Then ask them how you can involve them more in driving your organization’s success. Ask what skills they would like to be using more often. And then get really brave and ask for two suggestions on how you could improve as their manager. Trust me, you and your organization have blind spots and your  staff know them but people are too scared or fed up to tell you.  Follow up on your performance as a manager. “Last month you gave me two ideas to improve, how am I doing?” (Thank you Marshall Goldsmith for this tip from What Got You Here Won’t Get You There)

If you want the best out of your people, rethink the performance evaluation. Make this rare moment of undivided attention an opportunity to build not destroy employee engagement.

Louise Karch, M.Ed.


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Good is no longer good enough. The goal is perfection and the path that takes us there leads to excellence.
Louise B. Karch